Ozymandias U.

We get to Budapest and it's raining, and perhaps this influences our perceptions, but we've definitely crossed from the cheerful West into the post-Communist East. The train station is run-down and dark and filled with sketchy characters offering unlicensed taxi rides. Sarah has been raving about the ultra-quiet Vienna trams (fuel-cell, she guesses), but their Budapest counterparts are loud and obnoxious.

It's the vaguely bombed-out university dorm we're staying in, though, that really strikes me. My room smells of yeast, Sarah's of sewage. Her sink backs up, the hallway lights are mostly out, on our last day, the power gives out entirely. The showers lack nozzles, the toilets are pull-chain and clog up repeatedly, the radiators are exposed and unpainted metal coils.

The only truly fluent English speaker we meet during our six days in Budapest is the sleepy-eyed student who checks us in; we suspect that the "hostel" is a side project of his, a little way to make some money off of vacant rooms. Most of the time, the desk is manned by one of two elderly Hungarian men who spend their time repairing cigarette lighters and seem consistently befuddled by our existence. The students mostly avoid us (and vice-versa), though from the large number of videos they watch on their computers, I'd guess that their Internet bandwidth is pretty good.